When I was 24, I had just graduated from college. I was a manager of a Caribou Coffee in Edina, Minn. The company offered health insurance, but the waiting period was 90 days for enrollment. On a Sunday morning, I woke up and could not open my left eye. Being the manager, I could not call in sick, so I went to work. At work, my balance began to give out, meaning I had to lean on the counter while making drinks.
After deciding that something was actually pretty wrong with me, I decided to call my sister for a ride to the hospital. When I got to the ER, they did not know what was wrong with me. A neurologist came and diagnosed me with Guillain-Barre syndrome.
I was admitted to the hospital on Sunday, the day before my health insurance would begin. I was told the treatment would be a daily routine of plasmapheresis. These treatments cost $20,000 a day.
Being upfront with me because I had been upfront with them about my lack of insurance, the doctors told me about every cost of my care. After five days of treatment, I was told I would be released. They recommended that I move to a nursing home for more care, so I could be monitored. Asking what the price would be, I refused and returned to my parent’s home with a cane.
Two days after returning home, the phone calls started. It was not just phone calls from one part of the hospital. My care required the involvement of several different departments of the hospital, and they all wanted to get paid. I was in a deep depression.
Knowing that this whole mess could have been avoided had I gone to the hospital one day later was absolutely heart-wrenching. I was admitted to the hospital on Sunday. My health insurance from Caribou would have kicked in the very next day.
Receiving more and more bills in the mail, I considered my options. Bankruptcy was definitely in play. It would allow me to have a clean slate at the price of my credit for seven years. After talking with several lawyers, I decided to negotiate with the hospital about my bill. Working with them, I was able to reduce my bill from $120,000 to $30,000. This was a blessing.
For the next five years, I would work two jobs in order to make my payments. That important step where you buy your first house never happened for me, because I had to pay medical bills. I was bitter because even when my health insurance began the Monday I was in the hospital, it would not cover the Guillain-Barre because it was a pre-existing condition.
The Affordable Care Act could have saved all of this. Out of college, I was more interested in paying rent then health insurance. My student loans had already started, and I had to prioritize.
If I had been on my parents’ health insurance, I could have had protection from these bills. I could have received the care I needed after the hospital. My journey was a learning experience.
Never again will I go without insurance. The question is: Do we all need what has happened to me to learn our lesson and purchase insurance?
BY ANDREW THOMASON